Best car hire discounts and sales for your visit to the UK.
London is a popular destination for Aussies and has no need for car hire thanks to its elaborate and varied public transportation systems, but beyond the capital city itself, adventure awaits.
The best way to experience the natural landscape of the UK is via car.
If you're thinking of embarking on a road trip, we've sussed out the best car hire deals that let you take it all in, at your own pace.
We've also got the need-to-know info on important United Kingdom rules of the road; which rental companies allow their fleet to travel across to Ireland and France; and car insurance details that could be worth your while.
Top car hire UK deals
Road rules: What to know about driving in the UK
- Car types: In the UK the most commonly-driven vehicles are manual as opposed to automatic transmission. As such, when hiring a car in the UK, you’ll find that it’s much cheaper if you opt for one with manual drive.
- Drive on the left side of the road: Similar to Australia the UK drives on the left side of the road.
Watch your speed limit: In the UK, speed is measured in miles per hour. In the UK primary routes that aren’t motorways, are given the prefix "A" in the national classification system.
When you’re on an "A" road or motorway, you might see the national speed limit sign. This is a white circle with a black outline and single diagonal black line across the diameter.
On single lane "A" roads, you’ll need to stick to or below 60mph. On dual carriageways (two lanes) and motorways, the limit is 70mph unless otherwise indicated.
As a standard, speed limits are generally 30mph in urban areas, 70mph on motorways and 60mph in rural areas.
Congestion charges apply when driving in London: As mentioned above, you’ll find plenty of access to public transport to get you around the heart of London but if you do find yourself needing to travel by car into the city, it’s important to know that you can be charged dearly to do so.
The cost runs at £11.50 per day and applies when driving during specific peak areas on Monday to Friday between 7am and 6pm.
Full details of the congestion charge area may be found here.
Popular UK driving routes
- Humber Bridge, North Lincolnshire/Yorkshire: Drive across the 2,220-metre suspension bridge that was the first of its kind when it opened in 1981. The bridge spans the Humber, which is an estuary formed by the rivers Trent and Ouse and connects East Riding of Yorkshire with North Lincolnshire. The views from the bridge are best experienced at sunset or sunrise.
- A82 towards Glencoe, Scotland: Two hours north-west of Glasgow lies Glencoe, a sweeping expanse of lush green moorland punctuated by ice lochs and frosted tors. Experience natural beauty at its best, set against a backdrop of beautiful purple-grey skies.
- Black Mountain road, Powys, Wales: If you’re planning on travelling to Wales, this is a driving expedition to add to your to-do list. The road consists of many twists and turns, and dips and climbs through the mesmerisingly memorable Brecon Beacons National Park.
- UK to France: If you’re planning a roadtrip to France, you're best to take the Eurotunnel. It’s faster than a ferry, and you’ll get to see the beautiful coastlines as you leave the UK at Folkestone and enter France at Calais. Remember, they drive on the opposite side of the road in France, so you’ll need to drive on the right whilst there, too.
- UK to Italy: A drive from the UK to Italy takes approximately four days, and there’s plenty to see among a diverse array of cultures to experience along the way. Take a ferry or the Eurotunnel across to Calais, and head to Italy via Germany while enjoying the ever-changing landscapes, architecture and stunning scenery along the way. And remember, throughout Europe (aside from in the UK) they drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- South Coast: England's South Coast is the place where the sun shines brightest in the UK, making it a beautiful driving destination. Travel along over 300 miles of coastline, pass by two National Parks and four must-see World Heritage Sites including the iconic Stonehenge.
FAQs about car hire
Who offers cheap car hire in the UK?
Can you take a hire car from the UK to Ireland?
Many suppliers allow you to travel to Ireland via ferry with your rental car, however fees and conditions apply. These are based on extra insurance and roadside assistance cover and vary from GBP50 ($84) plus VAT for short periods to GBP150 plus VAT ($252) for longer rentals.
Another important consideration is that most rental companies don't cover cars while they're on a ferry, so should damage occur between the UK and Ireland you are liable for the repair costs.
In Ireland, like in the UK and back home, roads are driven on the left side. There are a number of toll roads in the Republic of Ireland, and plenty of narrow country lanes so be sure to check for oncoming traffic.
Can you take a hire car from the UK to France?
Some car hire companies, including Budget and Avis, allow transcontinental travel. Those that do may offer continental cover where renters receive a green card to drive their rental car around Europe, proving that appropriate third-party liability insurance is in place. Continental cover also provides you with worry-free 24-hour breakdown assistance.
This is only available from select UK car rental locations and you may only be able take the car to specified countries.
If you wish to hire a car and travel to France, or anywhere else in Europe via ferry, it’s important to do your research first.
If you do take your hire car across to Europe, you’ll need to switch from driving on the left hand side of the road, to driving on the right. As such, in the event that you need to overtake another car, you would do so on the left.
Which side of the road do I need to drive on in the UK?
Just like Aussies, the British drive on the left side of the road, so you’ll need to do the same.
Do I need an International Driving License to drive in the UK?
No, Australia is one of the UK’s designated countries. If you hold a valid driving licence from a designated country you are permitted to drive on UK roads, providing you have the correct level of insurance, of course.
I’m on a provisional license. Can I drive in the UK?
Unfortunately, no provisional non-UK residents are permitted to drive on the roads in the UK.
How does car insurance work?
Car hire rental excess insurance can reduce the excess payable to a more reasonable amount if you happen to need to make a claim, or it can even eradicate the excess fee completely.
Often, UK car hire companies offer you insurance when you book, and suggest the appropriate level of cover based on your needs, though you are always welcome to purchase insurance for your hire car through an alternate insurer if you prefer.